Tavcar AHAS 7angl


A drawing after David Allan by the Slovenian painter Matevž Langus

The Narodna Galerija (National Gallery), Ljubljana, houses eight sketch-books of the local painter Matevž Langus (1792–1855). One of them (Inv. No. NG G 135) contains a drawing of a scene with an elderly painter sitting before his easel and depicting a portrait of his wife seated knitting opposite him, while their child is making a drawing on the floor beside them. It has recently been discovered that the drawing was based on an etching, the N[e]apolitan Painter (1775), by the Scottish painter David Allan (1744–1796), who had also made two oil paintings of the theme. The three examples of the same motif differ slightly in detail, but they share their satirical character. As Iain Gordon Brown has convincingly explained (Apollo, July 1996, pp. 39–43), the target of Allan's caricature was the Neapolitan painter Pietro Fabris (documented between 1756 and 1804). The Scot, living in Italy from the mid-1760s to 1777, obviously envied Fabris for being a protégé of the famous connoisseur and collector Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803), living in Naples at the time as the British envoy. Langus must have come upon a copy of Allan's etching while he was studying in Rome between 1824 and 1826. However, he did not imitate it literally, but, by introducing several changes, he transposed his drawing from the sphere of caricature or satire to a serene domestic milieu, suited better to the Biedermaier taste of his time. Several other sketches by Langus indicate that he might have known more works by Allan that were available in graphic media; however, this hypothesis calls for further study.